Does Your Lifestyle Allow for Generosity?
Do not exploit the poor because they are poor and do not crush the needy in court, for the LORD will take up their case and will plunder those who plunder them. Proverbs 22:22-23
William Borden was born to a wealthy family, but when he was challenged by a friend at Princeton University, he gave away his millions. Years later he wouldn’t even allow himself the luxury of a car, when he rode through the teaming streets of Cairo, Egypt on a bicycle. His desire was to reach people at their level, and he did just that. His motto: No reluctance, no regrets, no retreat.
In all probability you won’t arrive at this kind of lifestyle overnight. It may be a slow journey from the hills of suburbia to the inner city where people are hurting, or from where you are to a simple path of service. Rarely does a person wake up and say, “I’ve been living for myself and I’m going to get rid of the big house, the expensive car and go live in the slums, working with the poor.” But at some point a wise person is forced to consider God’s will and purpose for his life. I hasten to say that God deals with each of us on an individual basis, and what may be OK for some is not necessarily OK for others.
Take, for example, Renny Scott. Haven’t heard of him? Probably not, but Scott said it’s time we began to look at the needs of our world in light of the trust of our possessions. Scott is an Episcopalian priest, and during his first stint in a parish, he began wrestling with the issue of materialism and how much is enough. He said, “I just couldn’t resolve the tension of living in a peaceful bedroom community while hell on earth was all around us in the form of hunger and poverty.”
He went to Africa with a World Vision group, which was the beginning of involvement with the needs of other people. He sold everything and went to Africa–right? Wrong! But he did move into the inner city where he lived, and began thinking about those who were less fortunate than he. That was the second step. Then he took a church, a struggling one with a congregation of about 50 which met in a school cafeteria. A year later he invited a Ugandan pastor to speak about the genocide which was taking place in Uganda under Idi Amin. The pastor borrowed the story of Jesus with the loaves and fishes and challenged the people to do what they could.
Afterwards a deacon suggested they give the entire Sunday morning offering to help. Scott swallowed hard because that meant his salary was included. Eventually, Scott and his wife, Margaret, came to grips with their lifestyle and did something which I have challenged many to do: put a cap on your lifestyle and say, “This much and no more”; and everything above that was given away no matter how much they received. The little church of 30 people grew into a body of people which averaged over 1800 in attendance and matched money given for buildings with money given for missions.
Then Renny Scott took on a new challenge: that of helping homeless people find housing which is affordable. Scott said, “I had to pause and ask myself what I would want to be doing if Christ returned today. And I found myself answering from Matthew 24 and 25. I needed to take my talents and invest them in the poor, the sick, and the naked.” Hats off to Renny Scott who discovered there is more to life than a good income.
Can anyone afford to be indifferent to the needs of others when the very example of Jesus dictated drawing a line somewhere and saying, “This much and no more”? You are the one who has to answer for your choices.
Resource reading: Proverbs 22:17-29.